How About Ballet?

I know that this is a sport’s journalism class, and mostly we cover and discuss mainstream sports, such as football, baseball, basketball, etc., along with others such as hockey, MMA, and so on. Although I’m not saying any of you discredit ballet as a sport, but I would assume most of you would not think “oh, ballet,” immediately when asked to name a sport. As a former dancer, who grew up dancing at Uptown Dance Centre and began ballet at the age of two, I can tell you it is most definitely a sport, when considering athleticism, dedication, physical endurance, hard work, and talent.

This story caught my eye, not only because this particular ballet dancer guested on Ellen and the YouTube video to “Take Me to Church” that went viral, but because as a dancer, the Royal Ballet is the top-of-the-top, and dancing there, especially as a principal dancer, is a dream most dancers can never hope to achieve.

Sergei Polunin started at the Royal Ballet School at age 13 and became the company’s youngest principal dancer at the age of 19. Two years into his professional career, he walked out. As a former-ballet dancer, let me tell you, this is insane to hear. I mean, THE ROYAL BALLET?

So, stories circulated, and there are videos with him giving different reasons, such as the stress of dance on your body, your body image, the endless tiring rehearsals, and pressure put on him by the school. I can imagine that the stress, media, and pressure would get to you at such a young age. Being a principal ballet dancer is rigorous and life-consuming. The pressure put on you to maintain a certain weight, the endless strain you put on your body, the constant spotlight and the limited financial return are just a few things that cause dance to be such a unnerving line of work.

This video circulated the internet, along with the news that he was quitting dance to start a normal life.

He went on Ellen’s show and performed the contemporary piece to Take Me to Church live. As they talked at the end, he mentioned that that was supposed to be his last performance. After a long applause, he broke the news on live TV that the contemporary project had inspired him and he had found his love for dance again.

He now dances for Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre[2] and the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. He also has a movie coming out later this year. I think this story is important and inspiring because it highlights the hardships of a professional dance career and the toll ballet culture takes on dancers. It’s hard to leave such a prominent and huge career, but he left the Royal Ballet, and he’s still managing a successful career as a professional dancer even after all of his negative experiences. It’s inspiring to dancers, and also to any person who feels stuck and pressured into a field because they are talented. It’s okay to make a choice for yourself even when you know you may not receive a plethora of support.

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